June 9, 2010, 5:43 PM

Thanks for the memories

Small communication efforts can help retailers building relationships with customers.

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Scrap Your Memories Inc. packs every order with a handwritten note. The first time a shopper orders from the web-only retailer, the note says, "Thank you for your order." The second time, it reads, "Thank you for ordering with us again."

Because the scrapbooking supply retailer's fulfillment system tracks the notes, a shopper never receives the same note twice, said Julie Swatek, the company's founder and president, today at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in a session entitled "Lean and mean customer engagement strategies."

The notes are a simple way to show customers that the retailer is taking the time to add a personal touch, she said. Doing so builds a connection with customers, which keeps them coming back to the retailer's site. "The stronger the human bond, the stronger the business bond," she said.

Another way Swatek seeks to create a connection is through her twice-weekly e-mail newsletters. The newsletters contain a personal note about her and her life. "I live my life out loud," she said. "I talk about anything and everything." For instance, last year she wrote about having the birds-and-bees talk with her daughter. She's also written about going through a divorce.

"People want to do business with people they like," she said. "My notes allow people to get to know me. They know my children's names. They know that I taught my children to ride their bikes. At the end of day, I don't sell paper and stickers, I sell that relationship."

Similarly, Gun Dog Supply, which sells dog and hunting supplies, seeks to showcase the human side to its business by highlighting how co-owner Steve Snell's life resembles the lives of the retailer's customers.

"Because there are 5,000 other places selling the same things we do, we have to put a face to our site," said Rob Snell, co-owner and Steve's brother. "We put his face and name on every page.  He is the voice of our company, he signs all our e-mails and he blogs about what he does with his family and dogs."

Since Gun Dog Supply made Steve the face of the company, its annual sales rose $10 million, said Snell.

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